Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“The Devil You Know”
By Alan Decker
“Craig Porter’s Personal Log. Stardate 54283.7. I don’t wanna be in command anymore! The occasional interesting spatial anomaly I can handle, but this…this is about to drive me insane.
“Yeah. Insanity. That’s a good word for it. How else can I explain Walter Morales killing Phillip Harper and having no memory of it? Normally I’d guess it was a Changeling intruder, but there are two small problems with that theory. First, we aren’t at war with the Dominion anymore. And second, the sensor recording shows clearly that the Morales who killed Harper is a flesh and blood person.
“The rest of the recording was actually the hardest for me to watch. Seeing Captain Beck stab Morales repeatedly…the cold look on her face…I don’t want that in my memories.
“The recording clears Lisa of murder at the same time it pretty much convicts Morales. He still swears that he doesn’t remember a thing, which Doctor Nelson says is possible. She seems to think his memories will return as he heals. In the meantime, Commander Morales is refusing to press charges against Captain Beck. On the one hand, I’m glad I don’t have to have Beck arrested and dragged back here considering what she’s been through. But on the other, I don’t know how good it is for her to be dealing with this alone.
“I can’t dwell on it for too long, though. I have a station to run and a corpse that we’ve kept hidden for far too long. Lieutenant Russell and I have a meeting scheduled to discuss how to proceed. Somehow I get the sense I’m really not going to like our options.”
Some days you just can’t wait to get to work. Okay, so maybe most people never feel that way, but Bradley Dillon was going to relish this day. He was practically hopping up and down with eagerness as the turbolift took him from his quarters in Waystation’s lower saucer to his office located on one of the upper saucer decks set aside for Dillon Enterprises.
John Simms, Jr. thought that he could strike fear into Bradley with his docking arm complex, but Simms hadn’t considered the fact that Bradley had connections on Waystation. All it had taken was one conversation with Captain Lisa Beck as she was on her way to the docking bay to straighten everything out. She had agreed with Bradley’s position on Simms’s docking arm.
Now that Beck had had a couple of days to file her rejection of the proposal, Bradley was going to comm Simms to rub it in a little…and gloat. Gloating was a must.
After arriving at his office, Bradley settled into his faux-leather desk chair and tapped the comm unit. “Gisele…”
“Good morning, Mister Dillon,” his assistant’s voice replied. “Did you want the morning briefing early today?”
“No no. But would you mind connecting me with John Simms, Junior at Simms Ship Lines?”
As Bradley expected, “right away” ended up being closer to ten minutes. Directly comming the CEO of a large concern such as Simms Ship Lines was not a rapid process. In the meantime, Bradley was able to busy himself with other communiques.
Finally, Simms’s image appeared on the monitor on Bradley’s desk. “What do you want, Dillon?” the older man demanded gruffly.
“Something agitating you, John?” Bradley replied innocently.
“I’m a busy man. If you’ve got some business with me, get to it.”
“Oh no. I think our business is at an end, a fact which should be abundantly clear to you now.”
Simms laughed. “Is this one of those psych-out your opponent techniques, Bradley? I’d have thought you were above such things. Getting desperate, huh?”
“Maybe you’re behind on current events, but I have nothing to be desperate about. Your project’s dead.”
Simms checked a display on his desk. “Hmm…looks alive to me. Starfleet is due to give me final approval any time now. I’ll have my contractors there within the month to get started.”
A cold realization struck Bradley. She hadn’t stopped it. Beck hadn’t stopped it! And, as a result, Bradley had blundered badly. How could he have been so foolish as to not confirm that the rejection had been filed before he commed Simms? In his eagerness to show-up Simms, he ended up humiliating himself.
“We’ll see” is all Bradley managed to reply through clenched teeth before he closed the comm channel. Something had to be done and fast. Had Beck returned to Waystation? If so, he’d track her down. If not, he’d just have to move on to the next person in the chain of command: Walter Morales.
“Who the hell is Walter Morales?” Lieutenant Craig Porter demanded as he paced Lieutenant Sean Russell’s office in Starfleet Square Mall.
“Is this a trick question?” Waystation’s Chief of Security asked, eyeing Porter nervously. Very rarely had Russell ever seen Porter this worked up.
“I’m serious, Sean. You know Commander Morales as well as I do. Has he ever struck you as the kind of guy who would kill somebody?”
“Jealousy will do that to a person.”
“Jealousy? Of Phillip Harper?”
“Come on, Craig. You’ve seen the way Morales looks at Captain Beck. He’s nuts about her.”
“Nuts, huh? Appropriate phrasing.”
“Tina told me that she and Morales had an argument about his obsession with Beck at breakfast the day before the murder. It all fits.”
“Really? Enlighten me,” Porter said skeptically.
“Okay. Morales’ in love with Beck, but she’s not interested.”
“You have anything to back that assertion up?”
“Courtesy of Yeoman Tina Jones again” Russell replied. “Morales told her that he actually kissed Beck once. Soon afterward, she gave him the whole ‘I don’t think of you that way’ speech.”
Porter winced. “Ouch. Heard that one enough. But I never killed anyone over it.”
“I guess you’re more well adjusted than our first officer then. According to Jones, Morales just let his feelings for Beck eat away at him. And Doctor Nelson told me Morales was still obsessing about Beck when he took Nelson to that resort with Frequoq Wuddle.”
“Okay. Morales wanted Beck. I accept that. What about this argument he had with Tina?”
“Tina caught Morales glaring at Harper and Beck in the food court. She basically told Morales that he needed to go see Counselor Miller.”
“And what did Morales say to that?”
“Nothing. Tina stormed off before he could get a word out,” Russell said.
“Wow. Jones was awfully forthcoming.”
“Why shouldn’t she be? This is a murder investigation.”
“I just thought she and Morales were friends.”
“She thought so, too. She also thought he would get help, but the next day, there’s Morales slicing up Phillip Harper. And my guess is that after watching Harper get killed, Captain Beck was so overcome with grief and rage that she attacked Morales. Then, horrified at what she’d done, she fled the station.”
“You’ve been watching those holo-mysteries again, haven’t you?”
“Maybe a couple. But like I said, it all fits.”
“What about Morales’ wounds?” Porter asked.
“What about them?”
“Nelson said that it didn’t look like Morales put up a fight. The video from the security sensors confirms that. Morales hits the ground well before Beck gets to him with the knife. What happened?”
“He was in shock at committing a murder…which is also why he can’t remember anything now. I’m not saying that he’s a cold-blooded killer, Craig…well, he kind of is since he was obviously waiting in Beck’s quarters with a knife, but other than that, I think he’s going to be really remorseful about all of this once he remembers what happened. I’m expecting a full confession.”
“Uh huh,” Porter said, lost in thought.
“When are you going to tell people about Harper’s death?”
“Soon. I just…I want to talk to him first.”
“That’s going to be tough with him being dead and all,” Russell said.
“Not him! Morales.”
“He doesn’t remember anything.”
“I know. I just need to hear some things from his mouth,” Porter said heading toward the door. “I’ll be in the Infirmary.”
“Okay. And could you ask Nelson when he’s going to be well enough to leave there? I want to get him in a cell before he tries to make a run for it.”
“He’s not going to run.”
“Sure. And did you think he’d kill anyone?”
“Which is why I want him in a cell.”
“This doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” Bradley Dillon said as Dr. Amedon Nelson stood barring his way toward the Infirmary recovery rooms.
“What part of ‘You can’t see him’ is confusing you?” Nelson shot back.
“All of it. Surely Commander Morales is up and around by now.”
“I can’t comment on his condition. Doctor-Patient confidentiality.”
“I’m not asking you to comment, Doctor. I just want to speak with him for a moment. It’s urgent.”
“Are we about to be attacked?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Then it’s not that urgent.”
Lieutenant Commander Porter suddenly brushed past Bradley on his way toward the recovery rooms.
“Doc,” Porter said with a head nod.
“Commander,” she replied returning the nod.
“Wait!” Bradley cried. “Why is he allowed access?”
Porter stopped and looked back at Bradley. “Easy. I’m official.”
“This is ludicrous. There is no reason that my right to visit a patient in this facility should be restricted!”
“Your right?” Nelson said, going toe-to-toe with the businessman. “Let me tell you how this works, pal. This is MY Infirmary, and these are MY patients. NO ONE sees them unless I give the okay. Okay?”
“Begone!” Nelson snapped back, pointing toward the exit.
“Commander, could you at least relay a message to Commander Morales for me?” Bradley asked.
“Why don’t you try sending a note? Maybe with some flowers?” Porter asked as he walked off down the corridor.
“When Captain Beck returns, she will hear about the way her staff has treated me!” Bradley said.
“I’ve got a hunch she won’t give a damn,” Nelson said. “Your visiting hours are officially over. Bye bye.”
Bradley glared at Nelson for a moment as several scathing replies ran through his mind. He finally decided against any of them. There was a chance that he could be injured one day, so infuriating the station’s Chief Medical Officer might not be the wisest course of action. Instead, Bradley turned on his heel and exited the Infirmary. Simms’s construction plans could still be stopped. He just needed to be patient and wait until he could get access to either Morales, or, preferably, Captain Beck when she returned.
Walter Morales heard the door to his recovery room slide open then close again with a soft whoosh, but he didn’t move from his current position, laying in the biobed and staring blankly at the sterile white ceiling.
“How are you doing?” Craig Porter asked gently.
“Fine except for the gaping hole in my memory,” Morales said. He sat up and looked around. “Where’s Russell? I figured he’d be waiting with binders to haul the murderer off to the brig.”
“He has mentioned it,” Porter replied.
“I still can’t believe this,” Morales said, rubbing his temples. “Could I have gone that far over the edge? I’d love to believe it wasn’t me, but the knife wounds seem to say otherwise.” Morales chuckled softly. “Guess I should have gone to see Counselor Miller a little sooner.”
“You remember Tina telling you to do that?”
“Yeah. It was at breakfast that morning.”
“Okay. Tell me what all you do remember about that day,” Porter said.
“I got up, got showered and dressed, went to breakfast with Tina, then headed to Ops for my shift. You were there with me until I got off. I headed straight back to my quarters, painted for a little while, then I got frustrated and went to bed.”
“I just couldn’t concentrate. Nothing was going the way I wanted it to on the canvas. I actually decided to get in touch with Counselor Miller the next day, but instead I woke up here after what was evidently a busy night.”
“You could say that,” Porter said, going over Morales’ story. Something wasn’t right. Actually, a lot of somethings.
“Wait. You had breakfast with Tina that day?”
“And you had command of Alpha Shift?”
“Uh huh. Then I went to bed.”
“Do you remember being sick?”
“No. I felt fine,” Morales said confused. “Why?”
“Did you talk to Captain Beck that day?”
“Only in Ops when she relieved me. What is it, Craig? You look like you’re on to something.”
“Only more questions,” Porter replied. “The day you’re describing was the day before the attacks, not the day of.”
“I lost an entire day? No. I don’t believe that.”
“You have another idea?” Porter said.
“I’m not lying, Craig.”
“I don’t think you are,” Porter said. “But you were awake and moving around on the day of the killing.”
“But a whole day? What was I doing other than stabbing people?”
“That’s what I’m going to find out,” Porter replied.
“Thank you,” Morales said. “Thank you for believing me.”
“I don’t believe anything yet. For all I know you’ve got a day’s worth of amnesia instead of just a couple of hours, but I like to think I know you, Commander. You don’t seem like someone who’d do something like this.”
“I wouldn’t. I’d never hurt Lisa.”
“Even if she loved Phillip Harper instead of you?”
Morales stiffened. “No,” he replied, looking pained at being forced to discuss his feelings for Beck. “I want her to be happy…even if it’s not with me.”
“We all say that when we’re rejected.”
“But I mean it.”
“We’ll see,” Porter said. “I’ll let you know if I find out anything.”
How much time had it been now? Did it even matter anymore? For all Lisa Beck knew, the Selvan had already accomplished whatever task it wanted her body to do. That thought alone was sickening in so many ways.
Meanwhile, Beck had been trapped in a vast nothingness that had slowly been transformed into a decent replica of her family beach house on an island off the coast of North Carolina. At first she thought her captors had somehow created it, but her lone company, a being that at Beck’s insistence had taken the form of Gurat, an employee at Wok-A-Chodok, informed her that Beck’s mind had actually transformed the environment.
That was nice and all, but it didn’t get her any closer to finding a way back to herself. All the not-Gurat would tell her was that she was “here” and that Selvan were here as well, not that she’d seen any sign of them.
Despite now being a non-corporeal form basically, Beck had still found the effects of fatigue plaguing her in the form of a growing headache. Shortly after her oh-so-illuminating conversation with not-Gurat, she’d excused herself and headed into the beach house to find a place to rest. Once she’d had a chance to do that and clear her thoughts, she could refocus on the real issue at hand.
The house had been just as she’d remembered, which was the only way it could be seeing as how it was pulled from her memories. The same slightly sharp smell of salty ocean air wafted through the open windows, relaxing Beck as she slipped into her old bed and curled up on her side, watching the waves outside.
She drifted off into a far more restful sleep than she would have expected under the circumstances…
…at least at first.
Soon her dreams became little more than flashes of chaotic images from throughout her life. Her parents. Her sister. Stephanie Hodges. The trip to Moscow. The time she and Steph snuck onto that Andorian freighter. Flying a runabout. Eating in Seven Backward on the Secondprize. In bed with Phillip. Walking the streets of some planet. The Christmas when Mom and Dad gave her the trip to San Francisco. A dark room full of strange objects in glass cases, kind of like a museum. Morales’ face before he stabbed Phillip. Blood. A hand. Blood. A knife. Blood. Stabbing. Stabbing. Stabbing. Screams.
Beck shot awake, sitting up in bed with a start as moonlight shone in the open window, illuminating the gentle lapping of the ocean below.
For a moment, her surroundings relaxed her as she let herself be comforted by their familiarness. But then she remembered where she was…where she really was.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” Beck murmured, tossing the covers off and charging out of the room.
In the end, it always seemed to come back to the security records. At least these were different ones, though, Lieutenant Commander Porter thought as he sat in the relative privacy of Science Lab Two reviewing sensor logs. There was an unspoken rule among Porter’s science staff that Lab Two was his. Inside were strewn bits and pieces of various gizmos and doo-dads that had caught his attention at different times ranging from miniature engine prototypes to the debris that was left behind when Dr. Derrick Azar’s time tube had exploded on board a couple of years earlier.
None of the bits and pieces mattered right now, though. Instead, Porter was focused on the records from Commander Morales’ quarters on the day before Harper was killed. As Morales had stated, he painted for a while (painted may have been a generous term for it. It looked to Porter more like Morales was just throwing paint at the canvas), then attacked the painting, which was a detail Morales had neglected to mention. After the angry outburst, though, Morales seemed to just deflate. He trudged off to bed looking more sad and pathetic than anything else.
Porter sped up the playback as Morales lay in bed asleep. No sense watching him sleep in real time. The doors to the science lab opened, allowing Lieutenant Russell and Yeoman Jones to enter.
“Afternoon, folks,” Porter said distractedly.
“You want to let me in on what’s going on, Craig?” Russell said, a hint of anger in his voice.
“I’m looking at security recordings.”
“Um…we already did that. Remember the whole seeing Commander Morales kill Phillip Harper in cold blood thing?”
“You don’t have to put it that way,” Jones said.
“Well he did!” Russell protested.
“Maybe,” Porter replied.
“Thank you! Wait. What do you mean maybe?”
“Morales can’t remember that entire day,” Porter explained.
“The whole day? Isn’t that weird?” Jones asked. “Even if he has the trauma amnesia Doctor Nelson was talking about?”
“I’m no doctor, but I’d have to say yes,” Porter replied. “Therefore, I’m tracking his movements.”
“Do his movements before he stabbed Phillip Harper really matter?” Russell asked.
“They do if they prove Walter didn’t do it!” Jones said.
“He did it!” Russell said. “If he didn’t, Captain Beck wouldn’t have stabbed him!”
“So what if he did it physically but not mentally?” Porter asked. “Does that change things?”
Russell thought for a few moments. “Er…I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer, so it’s not my problem. What is my problem is the fact that Doctor Nelson won’t let me transport my prisoner to the brig.”
“You can have him tomorrow,” Porter said, deciding to skip the argument that would ensue if he tried to explain any more to Russell.
“Tomorrow!” Russell said. “I’m holding you to that.”
“Maybe you won’t have to,” Porter muttered as Russell turned and charged out of the lab.
“He’s kind of worked up about this, don’t you think?” Yeoman Jones asked, stepping over to the console where Porter was working. “Other things could have happened.”
“I think he takes it kind of personally. He is the Security Chief, and I don’t think he likes the idea that people will kill each other on his watch.”
“Still he should try and think about Walter.”
“Are you? From what Sean told me, you pretty much spilled every bean you had on the Commander.”
“I was upset. But I know he couldn’t do this.”
“It’s okay. Telling us everything was the way to go,” Porter said, turning back to his sensor logs. “Oh what now!” he cried.
“What?” Jones asked, peering around him at the monitor, which was still displaying a speeded up image of Morales sleeping, at least she assumed it was Morales. The image was a bit fuzzy.
“The static,” Porter said as he slowed the playback down to real time. The static remained.
“You can still see,” Jones said.
“That’s not the point,” Porter replied. “We shouldn’t have this at all. I wonder…” He speeded the playback up again. On the screen, Morales slept, then started moving around in his bed, eventually getting up, wandering around a bit, and finally heading into the bathroom. “Did you see that?” Porter asked.
“It looked like he wet his bed.”
“No! Well, yeah, it kind of did, but that’s not what I meant. Look. The static is gone.” Morales’ stark naked body emerged from the bathroom and zipped over to order up a new uniform and such for the day. “Dammit, it’s back,” Porter said.
“Is he causing the static?” Jones asked, not taking her eyes off of Morales’ form.
“How could he?”
“I don’t know,” Jones said sheepishly.
Morales exited his quarters on the monitor. Porter quickly switched sensor recordings to the corridor outside. Sure enough, the static was there, too.
“Even so, you may be right,” Porter said as he followed Morales’ route. The Commander didn’t speak to anyone and instead may his way directly to the Waystation library, static following him all the way.
“What is he doing?” Porter asked as Morales sat practically immobile at a terminal in the library flipping through various texts on the screen.
“Into what?” Porter asked. “Why?”
“Do you want me to find out?” Jones said.
“Actually, yes. You don’t mind?”
“If it will help Walter, I’ll do it.”
“You may find out something you don’t want to know, Tina. We still don’t know that he didn’t do this.”
“Then explain the static to me,” Jones said.
“But it is weird.”
“So is the idea of Walter killing anyone,” Jones replied heading toward the door.
There would be security devices. The Selvan didn’t care. Nothing the people of Vega Two had watching over his quarry would be an obstacle to the power he possessed. Once night had fallen over the Vegan capital city of Kellex, the Selvan began his preparations, not that there was much to prepare. His scouting run earlier in the day had shown him everything he needed to know about where the item was located. He’d almost been disappointed at how easy this was turning out to bed. He’d originally imagined that he’d need the security access that a person such as Captain Lisa Beck surely would have, but as it was, the facility was open to the public and her body was currently needed as little more than a tool for the Selvan to use to retrieve the object in question.
Beck’s true purpose would come soon enough, though. But first, the item.
The Selvan in Beck’s body strode purposefully toward the entrance to the Amitoriate Museum of Antiquities, a small phaser palmed in its hand. It doubted it would even need the phaser for anything more than a door opener. Most societies such as these didn’t seem to think they needed live guards anymore due to their advanced technology. The Selvan concentrated for a moment, amplifying the energy radiating from itself, an act that would render their so-called advanced technology useless.
The main doors were approached without the slightest hint of an alarm being raised. Any sentry cameras were now seeing nothing but static. The Selvan phasered the locking mechanism, then shoved the doors open with Lisa Beck’s gloved hands.
The Selvan’s subsequent actions took less than five minutes as he jogged to the room containing artifacts discovered on Landris II, blasted open a display case, grabbed the item in question and put it in his satchel, then made his way back to the exit.
By the time the Vega Two authorities responded, the Selvan was strolling down a nearby thoroughfare crowded with other beings enjoying the planet’s nightlife, gloves and stolen property hidden in its bag. Just another Starfleet officer on leave.
Flush with success, the Selvan even said yes to a young Linkaaran who offered to buy him a drink. The Selvan could take a moment to celebrate before the real work began.
Once Yeoman Jones was gone, Porter watched the rest of Morales’ day, which consisted of sitting in the library, getting called to Ops for his shift, remaining in Ops until he suddenly decided to leave, then heading to Beck’s quarters. As soon as he entered Beck’s quarters, the static grew to the point that the recording was unwatchable. This was the condition that Porter had found the logs of the murder to be in as well.
Jones was right. He needed to explain the static. He brought back up the recordings from the night before. At some point, the image went from crystal clear to fuzzy due to static. Why? What happened?
All at once at time index 0132 hours, Porter saw the static kick in. He paused the playback and set the computer to analyze all sensor readings from just before and just after the arrival of the static. If there was a difference in that room, he was going to find it.
“Hard at work, I see,” a female voice said from behind Porter. Porter jumped in surprise and spun around to see Federation Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges entering the lab. He’d been so engrossed in his work that he hadn’t even heard the doors open. “Word is that you’re the man in charge right now.”
“What are you doing here?” Porter asked in shock. “Colonel Lazlo took all of you to some swamp planet.”
“I took some leave,” Hodges replied. “Something was bugging me.”
“Something that I need to know about?” Porter said as he grew concerned about where this conversation was going.
Yep. This was going exactly where Porter didn’t want it to go.
“Alpha Centauri,” he replied, reciting the cover story they’d concocted. “She had a meeting or a conference or something.”
“She didn’t tell me about it,” Hodges said.
“I think it was kind of last minute.”
“And she took Phillip Harper with her?”
“I guess so.”
“So you don’t know where he is for sure?”
“Should I?” Porter asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
“No one at AWN has heard from him for a couple of days now.”
“I got it!” Yeoman Tina Jones cried as she ran into the lab. She slid to a stop as she spotted Hodges there. “Ooooh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“I think we were about done,” Porter said. He turned back to Hodges. “Did you want me to have Captain Beck comm you when I hear from her?”
“Yeah,” Hodges replied, looking back and forth from Jones to Porter suspiciously. “What are you two doing?”
“Science stuff,” Jones said quickly.
“Uh huh.” Hodges took a couple of steps toward the door, then stopped. “Look, Craig. If something’s going on here, I want to know about it. I’m not Lazlo, and I’m not going to report back to him. Just let me in. I want to help. Is something wrong with Lisa?”
“As far as I know, she’s just fine,” Porter said, telling the truth. As far as he knew, she was fine…well, other than the part where she saw her boyfriend killed then stabbed her first officer repeatedly.
Hodges eyed Porter for a few moments, then abruptly left the lab. “That wasn’t fun,” Porter muttered.
“Maybe we should have told her,” Jones suggested. “She and the Captain are close.”
“The fewer people who know what’s happening for now, the better,” Porter said. “Now what did you find out?”
“Walter spent most of the day in the library doing research.”
“I knew that.”
“But what was he researching?” Jones asked smugly.
“The Glyph of Ranit-Del!” Jones stated triumphantly.
“What the hell is the Glyph of Ranit-Del?”
Jones shrugged. “I don’t know. I was kind of hoping it’d ring a bell with you. In any case, Beevo the librarian put all of Commander Morales’ research onto a data chip for him. He was able to give me a copy as well.” Jones handed Porter the chip.
“Thanks,” Porter replied. “Glyph of Ranit-Del. Glyph of Ranit-Del. What does that have to do with anything?”
The computer chirped softly indicating that it had finished the comparison Porter had requested. The static in the recordings seemed to being caused by an unusual energy emission that spontaneously appeared in Morales’ quarters at 0132 hours. Porter had the computer search for any matches to the energy signature in the Waystation database.
One entry came up. “Hunh?” Porter said confused.
“What is it?”
“The static in Morales’ quarters was caused by an energy signature I saw once last year. I made a note about it that I thought it could possibly be a lifeform.”
“A lifeform? Did you investigate it?”
“No,” Porter replied, reading the notes he made the previous year about the energy signature. “Captain Beck told me not to worry about it. Something about not opening the door to it.”
“Did Walter open the door?” Jones asked.
“I don’t even know what that means, and that still doesn’t tell us why Morales was looking up this glyph thing.”
“So we’re nowhere.”
“Not exactly. Since I know the energy signature I’m trying to filter, I can try to clean up the recording of the attacks a bit more. We still don’t have any sound, and the picture isn’t great.” Porter quickly pulled up the attack recording and set the computer to filter out the requested energy signature. Almost instantly, the image improved, but not enough for full clarity. Porter looked at the sensor readings. “Most of the rest of this seems to be noise at similar energy frequencies as the other, just at higher amplitudes. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Did you find a data chip on Walter?” Jones asked as Porter worked.
“No. I don’t think so. Russell or Nelson would have mentioned it. It could be in his quarters,” Porter said distractedly as he watched Morales collapse to the floor again on screen. Beck leapt in and started stabbing. This part had been grainy in Porter’s previous attempt to clean up the recording, but this time he noticed something.
“Computer, stop playback. Rewind ten seconds and magnify sector G-8.”
“What did you see?” Jones asked, peering at the screen. After stabbing Morales, Beck’s hand reached into Morales’ uniform pocket and pulled something out.
“Freeze,” Porter said. He adjusted the magnification manually, zooming in on Beck’s hand and clearing up the image of the object she took from Morales.
“So that’s where the data chip went,” Jones said.
“Looks like it.”
“Got me. I’m going to try the audio.”
It didn’t take Porter long to clear up the sound. He and Jones watched and listened to the playback in stunned silence as their fears were confirmed.
“This human’s feelings for you mean nothing to me. They were just the conduit for me to assume control. He was so blinded with love for you that he was more than willing to open the door,” Commander Morales’ voice said uttering words obviously not his own.
Captain Beck’s mouth opened. “You’re the one…from my dream.”
“I am the Selvan,” the being in Commander Morales replied.
“You dreamed this guy?” Phillip Harper asked, clearly confused.
“You couldn’t get me, so you took Morales. What do you want?” Beck demanded.
“The same thing I wanted before. You,” Morales replied.
“You’re not getting me,” Beck said, suddenly launching forward, going for Morales’ knife arm. Morales blocked her, grabbing Beck by the uniform and tossing her with amazing strength into the wall.
“Lisa!” Phillip cried, charging. Morales spun back to this new attacker, catching Phillip in the gut with the knife. Phillip’s eyes widened in shock and horror as the blade pierced his skin. Morales grinned cruelly then yanked the knife sideways, slicing through skin and organs before he finally shoved Phillip to the ground.
Beck leapt to her feet. She didn’t get three paces before Morales stopped her, not with a blow but by leaning down to Phillip, knife in hand.
“Give yourself to me,” Morales said.
Phillip’s hand suddenly locked onto Morales’ arm. Morales reacted viciously, slicing backwards and nearly severing Phillip’s head from his shoulders. Beck watched helpless as the life drained from Phillip’s eyes.
Morales was back on his feet in a flash, knife aimed at his own neck. “You have lost one, Lisa Beck. Give yourself to me or this human dies, too.”
“You’ll be gone,” she seethed.
“No. I’ll find another door. I’ll come back again and again killing each and every host I control until…”
“ALL RIGHT!” Beck bellowed, eyes blazing. She deflated almost instantly, her voice dropping to a whisper. “You win.”
“Oh god,” Commander Walter Morales murmured softly as he watched the scene play out in front of him on the monitor in the Ops conference room. It had taken some convincing, but Lieutenant Commander Porter had finally persuaded Lieutenant Russell to allow Morales to leave the Infirmary to attend this…briefing, if it could even really be called that.
The playback continued, showing Morales collapsing to the deck as whatever was controlling his body left and entered Lisa Beck. The creature controlling Beck then stabbed Morales, took the data chip, and left the quarters completely unconcerned about the two bodies it had left in its wake.
“So Commander Morales is innocent,” Jones said firmly to Lieutenant Russell, who, like Morales and Dr. Nelson, had been glued to the playback.
“What do we do?” Russell asked Lieutenant Porter, deciding not to address the obviousness of Jones’s statement.
Porter began pacing the conference room. “All of this seems to center around something called the Glyph of Ranit-Del. I haven’t been able to find a mention of it in the Federation databanks, but the data chip Commander Morales…sorry, whatever was in Commander Morales research ends with a listing of artifacts housed in the Amitoriate Museum of Antiquities on Vega Two.”
“Uh huh,” Russell replied, immediately beginning to type on his padd.
“None of the artifacts there has that name, but it’s possible that this Selvan being could be referring to something housed in the museum.”
“That was housed,” Russell said.
“The museum was robbed overnight,” Russell replied, reading from his padd. “The only area touched was an exhibit of artifacts from Landris II.”
“Was Captain Beck there?” Morales asked.
Russell pulled up the Vega Two traffic control system. “The Roanoke arrived the day of the robbery and left this morning. Craig, we’ve got to send out an alert, have her brought in.”
“No,” Morales said, standing up. “I’m going after her.”
“You don’t know where she’s going. Or even what she’s planning,” Nelson said.
“I’ll find out,” Morales said. “But you heard that thing on the recording. If we send all of Starfleet after her, it’s just going to jump to someone else, or maybe just hide out for a while, then retake her. Meanwhile, Lisa gets arrested and poked and prodded by the combined probes of Starfleet Medical, Science, and Psych. I’m not letting that happen. I just need a fast ship.”
“The Wayward…” Porter began.
“Too conspicuous. I’m going to see Bradley Dillon.”
“Lucky him. He wanted to talk to you anyway,” Nelson replied as Morales charged out the door.
“Does anybody else think this is a really bad idea?” Russell asked.
“He’s in charge,” Jones replied. “Craig?”
“I can see his point,” Porter admitted.
“So can I…unfortunately,” Nelson said. “I suppose you want me to try to figure out a way to extract this thing if Morales is able to bring Beck back here.”
“The thought did cross my mind,” Porter said.
“Uh huh. I’ll be in the Infirmary,” Nelson said, pulling herself up out of her chair and heading out of the room.
“On the upside,” Russell said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his hands behind his head. “I don’t have a murder to investigate anymore. Who wants a beer?”
This was not in the plan. Not in the plan at all, Bradley Dillon thought as he sat at his desk staring at the latest communique from John Simms, Jr. This one consisted of only two words: “Project Approved.” So it was official. The first battle went to Simms. Bradley wasn’t finished, not by a long shot, but he would have to consider his next move carefully.
“Mister Dillon?” Gisele’s voice asked hesitantly over the comm system. She, of course, knew the contents of the communique and was obviously concerned about the current mood of her employer. Bradley had never been one to lash out at others, but he could rant with the best of them when things didn’t go his way, which, fortunately, didn’t happen very often.
“Yes, Gisele,” Bradley replied, attempting to sound upbeat.
“Commander Morales is here to see you.”
Bradley chuckled in spite of himself. Now the acting station commander decides to pay him a call. What excellent timing.
“Send him in,” Bradley said with a bemused sigh.
The massive wooden doors slid open a few moments later allowing Commander Walter Morales to step into Bradley’s office.
“Welcome, Commander,” Bradley said warmly, rising from his chair and extending his hand to Morales. “I’m glad to see you up and about. You’re fully mended, I trust.”
“Getting there,” Morales replied. Bradley instantly took note of the man’s eyes. He was troubled and distracted and, by the looks of it, visiting Bradley for reasons of his own. “Doctor Nelson said you wanted to see me.”
Yes, I did. Unfortunately, the event that I was hoping to prevent seems to have already occurred, despite the promise I had from Captain Beck that she would put a stop to it.”
“Stop to what? When did you talk to her?”
“John Simms, Junior is attempting to build a docking arm on Waystation to serve his ship lines. If that were all it was, I would be fine with it. However, this…monstrosity will duplicate many of the amenities already present on the station and create quite an eyesore on the station exterior. I asked Captain Beck to deny Simms’s request…for the good of all of us. As for when I spoke to her, it was just as she was leaving, I believe.”
“In that case, I don’t think she was paying attention,” Morales said darkly.
Bradley narrowed his eyes at Morales. “A bit of professionalism would not hurt this crew in the slightest.”
“I need a ship.”
“I said I need you to lend me a ship. Something fast. I know you’ve got a couple in that docking bay you rent from us.”
“Does this have something to do with Captain Beck’s absence?”
“That’s a Starfleet matter.”
“Somehow I don’t think so,” Bradley replied. “Otherwise, you’d be using a Starfleet vessel rather than trying to borrow one from me. This is obviously something you don’t want known by your superiors.”
“Are you going to help me or not?” Morales demanded.
“I can’t see why I should. You and Captain Beck haven’t exactly been helpful to me lately.”
“Dammit, Bradley!” Morales snapped, slamming his hands down on Bradley’s desk. “I don’t have time to sit here while you and Simms fight about who’s got the biggest bank account. I need a ship, and I need it now!”
Bradley stared at Morales, lost in thought. A smile slowly spread across the businessman’s face as a light dawned. “You can have the ship,” he said.
“Thank you,” Morales said.
“No. Thank you, Commander. You’ve been a tremendous help.”
“Where’s that launcher?” Commander Morales shouted from the top of the S.S. Penzance as a team of Waystation’s engineers worked to modify Bradley Dillon’s small craft. The Penzance was sleek, fast, and fairly well-equipped with amenities. For a quick pleasure cruise, it would be perfect. However, Morales wasn’t traveling for pleasure. The craft already had an impressive shielding system (Bradley wasn’t big on the idea of being blasted out of space), but it lacked any weapons…at least it used to.
“It’s almost online,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter replied, poking his head out from under the ship. “Two launchers. But there was only room for twenty-five micro-torpedoes each. Don’t spend them all in one place.”
“Hopefully, I won’t have to,” Morales called back as he made the final connection to the phaser bank he’d just installed above the Penzance’s cockpit, one of six banks that had been installed on the vessel. “What about the additional power?”
“I threw a couple of stand-alone units into the engineering compartment. You should be fine as long as you get into short fights. They’ll draw power from the warp core to recharge after that.”
“That’s fine.” Morales climbed down off of the ship and looked it over as the techs finished their work on the final torpedo launcher. “Looks like we’re all set.”
“If you say so,” Porter replied, stepping up beside him. “You sure this is the way you want to do this?”
“I’ve got to find her.”
“No one’s arguing that, but at least take some of us with you. I can work on that data chip…”
“You have to run this place. I’ll be fine.”
“What about Phillip Harper? We still haven’t told anyone. We can’t…”
“I know,” Morales said. “But just give me a little time to sort things out. Once the captain is back, we can deal with Harper’s remains. Otherwise, Starfleet’s going to be all over us.”
“You’re probably right about that.” The engineers finished with the micro torpedo launcher and gave Porter a thumbs up.
“That’s my cue,” Morales said. He turned to Porter. “I owe you, Craig. You got me out of a heck of a jam. Thank you.”
“I don’t think we’re out of the jam yet, sir. Bring the captain home.”
“I will,” Morales said simply, then climbed up into the ship and started the pre-flight sequences. Moments later, the Penzance gently lifted up from the deck just as Bradley Dillon arrived carrying a padd.
“And off he goes,” Bradley said approaching Porter. “I believe this means you are once again the man in charge.”
“Whatever you want, can we discuss it later?” Porter asked as he watched the Penzance sail out of the docking bay into the void of space beyond.
“I just wanted to inform you of one small change I’m implementing,” Bradley replied, handing the padd to Porter.
Porter’s eyes widened as he read the words on the screen.
“Bradley Dillon’s Waystation!”
TO BE CONTINUED…